Why Should I Take Chinese Herbs?

I frequently hear from patients that they are hesitant about taking Chinese herbal formulas, and/or don't understand the benefit of them. Many more people are on board these days with receiving acupuncture treatments, but Chinese herbal medicine is still underutilized in reproductive health. So lets discuss some of the benefits and the safety regarding Chinese herbal formulas.

Why take them?
First of all, the herbs help us, the acupuncturists, make progress faster. We make progress at each treatment towards correcting your diagnosis and improving your overall health, and preparing you for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) if you are going that route. But your using the Chinese herbal formulas consistently allows us to continue making this progress between appointments. So taking your herbs:

  • Helps you make progress quicker

  • Helps you reach better overall and reproductive health faster

  • Helps you get your money's worth out of your acupuncture treatments

But are they safe?
This is a common question that we receive at the clinic, and with good reason. Many of our patients are trying to conceive and want to make sure that our treatments, and formulas, are safe during conception and pregnancy. The questions may be about herb quality, or about our formulas, but know that we only use the highest quality herbs, and that we are drawing on a rich history of medical texts and formulas that ensure the safety of our treatments and herbal formulas for all men and women, including those trying to conceive and those already pregnant.

Proper Testing
We purchase our herbs through companies that do additional screening on their herbs (in addition to any screening that the FDA does) to ensure that all products were properly labeled before they were shipped to the company. This company also has a third party do in-house testing for toxins, such as heavy metals, essentially checking and double-checking the quality of their product before it is shipped to us.

Why Formulas instead of single herbs?
Another beautiful thing about Chinese herbal formulas is that they are not single herbs. Anyone that has taken "Western" herbs knows that you may pick up a bottle of a single herb, meaning that the concentrations of that herb are very high. When we use Chinese herbal formulas, we are able to use a much lower amount of each herb, thereby decreasing any toxicity that may result from taking a higher dose of a "safe" herb. Also, many herbs have been shown to be more effective when combined with certain other herbs in our pharmacopia than when taken as a single herb. So, although we are using smaller doses of single herbs, they are more effective when combined - again, helping you make progress faster.

As a general rule of thumb, whether you are pregnant, or have just ovulated and are actively trying to conceive, we always recommend herbs that we deem safe during pregnancy. We are lucky in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in that we have gynecological texts that date back over a thousand years, and many of the formulas that we use in modern day TCM have been used over the centuries for gynecological and obstetrical use. We also only recommend herbs during pregnancy when they are warranted - in other words to help protect the health of mommy and the baby.

Another thing to note is that in the state of Texas, acupuncturists (L.Ac.s) are licensed by the Texas Medical Board to perform acupuncture as well as to recommend Chinese herbs, even during pregnancy. In addition, all of our acupuncturists at TCRA are
ABORM (American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine) Fellows, or have been trained by an ABORM fellow, meaning that we have additional training in the area of reproductive medicine.

So, in order to help ensure the safety of Chinese herbs we:

  • Only buy from reputable distributors that test their product before selling to us
  • Use formulas instead of single herbs in order to allow us to use lower doses, thereby decreasing chances of "toxicity" or "overdose"
  • Assume all patients trying to concieve may be pregnant after ovulation, and recommend herbs accordingly
  • Only recommend herbs during pregnancy when we feel it is necessary

But my doctor said not to take herbs - am I wasting my time with acupuncture?
Absolutely not! Acupuncture is still an effective therapy without herbs. Additionally, we only recommend herbs to patients when appropriate to treat their symptoms (and this varies from case to case) so you may not even be advised to take herbs.

Still have questions? That's ok! Give us a call or bring up your questions at your next acupuncture appointment.

Misty M. Reed, MAcOM, L.Ac. (FABORM)